Liberalism Can Succeed
February 19th, 2018, 07:27 PM

[This is Part II of a two-part review of Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed. You can read Part I here] If we’re already at the point where liberal citizens cannot remember what our regime is supposed to protect — the individual and her natural rights to self-determination — what do we do? Answer: remind them what it is to be one, and why the individual is the pearl of greatest price. If we want to stand athwart the march toward illiberalism, moreover, and are so bold as to try to reverse its course, restoring confidence in the justice and wisdom of liberal practices and philosophy, what do we do? Answer: respond to liberalism’s critics, whether Deneen, the postmodernists, or the illiberal regimes abroad. After all, our preference for Western liberalism over these rivals is not enough to exonerate it from their critiques. We must respond to them, urgently, so that thoughtful Westerners who have lost confidence in the project, or at least its coherence, may find it once again. In a pair of essays on this …

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It’s Time for Evidence-Based Gender Policy
February 19th, 2018, 07:27 PM

For decades, it was fashionable to call the concept of truth – even scientific truth – into question. For those who considered modernity to be completely surpassed, reality was a simulacrum, everything was relative, there was no such thing as objective references but “texts”, and “truth” was nothing but masked oppression. This intellectual trend, despite facing some resistance and ultimately being ridiculed by the Sokal Affair, is alarming. It coincides with the rise of the term “post-truth”, which was proclaimed “Word of the Year” by Oxford Dictionaries in 2016. In a world living in peace with relativism, or at most with “liquid” and “weak” truths, the preoccupation with truth is back. What was long considered a topic for philosophers or theologians is now reaching newspapers’ op-eds and the political and legislative agenda. Everyone in a position of power and influence seems concerned by the dissemination of so-called “fake news” and illiberal extremism. But this strong revival of populism and irrationality is provoking a reaction. There is much talk nowadays about fact-checking, Big Data, or mechanisms …

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Speaking Out About Islam – Lubna Ahmed, Rebel With a Cause
February 19th, 2018, 07:27 PM

Her voice broke with anguish and remembered fear at times as she told me her story. She is only twenty-six years old, yet the courage and conviction she has shown befit a war hero with years of battlefield experience. She has, in fact, found her life threatened, and on a battlefield of sorts – an ideological one on which she has been defending her rights, and specifically, her rights as a woman. In 2015, she decided that she could remain silent no longer, and came out internationally as an atheist on The Rubin Report (Dave Rubin’s popular Internet talk show) in a deeply Islamic society, knowing the mortal risks awaiting her, and had to flee her homeland. But even in her new life in California, she has to live concerned for her safety, as do all those ex-Muslims – and especially women – who publicly denounce Islam. Yet she remains undaunted. Her name is Lubna Ahmed and she hails originally from Baghdad. She is an engineer by education, a truth-telling rebel by character and vocation. I …

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Is Democracy Doomed?
February 19th, 2018, 07:27 PM

A review of The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom is in Danger and How to Save it by Yascha Mounk, Harvard University Press (2018), 393 pages The great Austrian-American political economist Joseph Schumpeter once asked, “[c]an capitalism survive?” He answered this question in the negative, believing that markets undermine themselves because they perform too well. The market’s emphasis on innovation and disruption make it difficult for people to recognize how essential they are to rising standards of living. In Schumpeter’s view, capitalism’s downfall will be due to its success. Schumpeter agreed with Marx that socialism (or something like it) would eventually emerge in capitalism’s place, but he believed it would happen gradually. Willing majorities, buttressed by the anti-capitalist mentality of the intelligentsia, would snuff out entrepreneurs through legislation with large welfare states and burdensome regulations. Schumpeter didn’t live to see the collapse of socialism around the world. Nor did he witness the rise of social democracy in Europe, where states provide generous social safety nets while maintaining liberal economic policies in other areas such as international trade. …

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Diversity: A Managerial Ideology
February 19th, 2018, 07:27 PM

Diversity is the reigning social and political ideal of our age. It is the public ideology of the country’s most powerful state and business institutions. To many it is the essence of American national identity and, in one of the favorite phrases of President Barack Obama, ‘who we are’ as a country. Rather than simply a recognition of difference, diversity is a cultural, economic, and political project to both generate difference and to manage it. This project traces its ancestry back to the black civil rights and women’s movements of the 1950s-70s. First blacks and then women organized and pressured state and society with demands for equality. Struggles took place in nearly every social arena, from housing to public accommodations to religion to sport. Conflict was especially pointed in employment and education, the country’s key channels for upward social mobility. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 stands as the signature legal culmination of those demands, and its Titles IV and VII set forth society’s new norms on ‘equal opportunity’ in both arenas. By ensuring equal …

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The Political Chimp
February 19th, 2018, 07:27 PM

As of January 2018, the symbolic Doomsday Clock reads two minutes to midnight. The current age of global instability and uncertainty has revived discussion of an age-old question: is war ingrained in human nature? Warfare has been studied for centuries, by everyone from historians of ancient Greece to primatologists. But something strange is happening to the way we consider the subject, especially with respect to the study of chimp-on-chimp violence. Conspecific killing among chimpanzees (i.e. when chimps kill one another) has become a particularly political and controversial topic, and contending arguments seem to reflect the ideological preferences and outlook of the researchers on either side of the debate. At issue are the implications data about primate warfare might have for our understanding of human violence. A link between chimpanzee and human warfare has been stated outright by leading primatologists, who suggest that it demonstrates humans’ innate predisposition for violence. I first encountered this controversy during graduate school. Steven Pinker had just published The Better Angels of Our Nature which provoked heated discussion of war-like behavior as an evolutionary mechanism in humans. Then, two …

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The One State Delusion
February 19th, 2018, 07:27 PM

If you are an ardent champion of globalism, imagining how the economic and cultural interaction across political borders not only makes us more prosperous but also challenges the archaic concept of the nation-state, then Barcelona, Spain, is probably your kind of town. Barcelona, one of the world’s major global cities, is the sixth most populous urban area in the European Union (EU) and the largest metropolis on the Mediterranean Sea, has been transformed from a manufacturing centre, the so-called Manchester from Catalonia, into a knowledge-based economy, a leading tourist and commercial centre, that has been attracting international businesses and skilled professionals. Smart, innovative, cool, hip, with world-class conferences and expositions and many international sport tournaments, and one of the fastest growing economies in Europe Barcelona, the capital of the region of Catalonia, should be a poster boy for globalism. It’s Nationalism, Stupid! Indeed, if you examine much of the evolving conventional wisdom on the current political backlash against international trade, immigration and globalization in general, Barcelona, not unlike New York City and London is one of those “global cities,” where multiculturalism reigns, immigrants are …

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Fundamentalists vs The New York Times
February 17th, 2018, 07:27 PM

Last week, Bari Weiss, a staff editor and columnist for the opinion pages of the New York Times, became the latest person to find herself at the centre of a social media feeding frenzy for sending a carelessly worded tweet. Even that summary doesn’t do justice to the inanity of the controversy, since “carelessly worded” concedes more to her critics than their bad faith deserves. On February 12, upon learning that US figure skater Mirai Nagasu had successfully performed a triple axel at the Winter Olympics, Weiss shared an NBC video of Nagasu’s spectacular achievement along with the comment, “Immigrants: They get the job done.” Her tweet was a reference to a line from the Hamilton musical – later turned into a song for The Hamilton Mixtape – celebrating the contribution immigrants have made to America (sample lyric: “Who these fugees? What did they do for me?/But contribute new dreams/Taxes and tools, swagger and food to eat…”). It ought to have been obvious to all but the most stubbornly obtuse that Weiss was using Nagasu’s …

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Thinking Critically About Social Justice
February 16th, 2018, 07:27 PM

Yesterday, the U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) released a memo written by an attorney, Jayme Sophir, which determined that Google did not violate United States federal law when it fired James Damore. Sophir reasoned that references to psychometric literature on sex differences in personality were “discriminatory and constitute sexual harassment,” and on these grounds, Damore’s firing was justified. Following the release of the NLRB memo, a number of scientists on Twitter expressed alarm at the justifications provided within the memo, which appeared to relegate the discussion of sex differences outside the realm of constitutionally protected speech. The NLRB’s determination has emerged after Damore, together with another former Google engineer, filed a class action lawsuit against the company alleging an institutionalised culture of harassment towards people with conservative or libertarian political views. Their complaint is eye-opening. Damore and Gudeman lay out in detail the many ways in which this harassment occurs: a pervasive environment of disparaging jokes and demeaning language amongst colleagues; a climate of bullying, mocking, and personal attacks from superiors and others in power; an open endorsement …

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Is There Any Evidence that Trigger Warnings Work?
February 16th, 2018, 07:27 PM

At Stockton University’s 3rd Annual Women in Academia Conference in 2014, Kristin J. Jacobson, a professor of American Literature and Gender Studies, gave a presentation entitled “Trigger Warnings! Best Practices and the Evaluation of Teaching.”1 Jacobson described trigger warnings as “largely accepted practice among faculty from a range of fields” for accommodating traumatized students in the classroom. This is a view shared by other advocates and users of trigger warnings who have come forward to justify their use. In an article for the New York Times entitled “Why I Use Trigger Warnings,” Katie Manne also contends that “the willingness to use trigger warnings” reflects best practices in the classroom. Rebecca Godderiss and Jennifer Root from Wilfred Laurier University, meanwhile, offer that dialogue among faculty is critical to establishing best practices for trigger warnings.2 Likewise, Francesca Laguardia and her colleagues at Montclair State University suggest that, were they to be given training on the prevalence of trauma and the biology of trauma triggers, most academics would be more open to incorporating trigger warnings in their classrooms.3 However, these perspectives operate on the …

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